DAYTON, TN -- Three of the four individual champions in the Region 3-AAA and 4-A/AA meets were defending champions, including Bradley's Harold Smith.
Smith covered the looping 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 34 seconds to win the 3-AAA race while Andre Hillsman of Central Magnet won the 4-A/AA boys event in 16:53.
Hailey Coudriet, a freshman from Stone Memorial, was victorious in the Girls 3-AAA race with a time of 19:39 while Claudia Smith of Central Magnet put the hammer down in the final mile to win the 4-A/AA race in 19:04.
The races were held at Fort Bluff Camp under cool, overcast conditions, but there was a nagging wind from time to time. The temperatures seemed to fall as the day went on.
Bradley's Smith had finished as the runner-up as a freshman and sophomore before winning for the first time last year at Chickamauga Dam.
He was in a pack of five or six runners for most of the race, but when they made their final turn and headed toward the finish line, he used his kick to beat runner-up Nathan Longfellow of Cookeville by eight seconds.
Ooltewah's Garrett Flores was third in 16:46.
"I had a 17:20 the first time we ran up here a few weeks ago and wanted a better time today, but I just tried to do what I did at Baylor last week and that was to start more conservative than normal," the Bradley senior explained.
"I was hoping that Nathan would stay with me as I was wanting to pull him along, but he wouldn't. I just tried to run a smart race today and I hope to do the same next weekend at the state meet. I want to go out with a bang in cross country, but I'm ready for track season to begin," he added.
Hillsman won the region meet last year before finishing second in the state. He has a personal best of 15:29 this fall, but he was more concerned about his team running well than how he did as an individual.
"My teammates were wanting a more conservative start, so I took it easy at the beginning," he said afterward.
"This is just a confidence booster for the state meet, but our whole objective for today was to get the team back to the state meet," he added.
Hillsman's wish was granted a little while later as his team finished with 22 points as he had three teammates in the top five.
Central Magnet's Smith had the fastest time for a girl with her 19:04, which was 29 seconds faster than runner-up Mallory Young of Signal Mountain. These two finished in the same order in last year's region with Smith finishing fourth at the state and Young sixth.
They were running together for most of the first two miles, but once they started that final stretch, Smith picked up the pace and Young couldn't respond.
"I tried to push myself as I opened up my stride in the last mile. I picked up the pace as I just wanted to win again today," Smith said.
"I was hoping to stay with her, but that plan sort of fell apart," Young said while sipping on a cup of water as teammates exited the finish chute.
"I did my best, but I just couldn't stay with her. I'll try again next weekend. We've never been region champions before, so that makes me really happy," Young concluded with a smile.
While Smith and Young are both juniors, Coudriet and Cookeville runner-up Isabella Dawson are both just freshmen.
Coudriet had the widest margin of victory as she finished some 37 seconds ahead of her closest challenger.
"My goal was to stay with the girl from Cumberland County as she is such a good runner," Coudriet said in reference to Kassidy Sommer, who was an early leader before finishing third in 20:29.
"I started getting a little winded in the third mile, but I was hoping to get a PR and I did by about 15 seconds," she added.
Dawson, like Coudriet, is running cross country for the first time. Most runners benefit from cooler conditions, but Dawson wasn't one of them.
"I felt pretty good for the first two miles, but I just had to gut it out at the end as I'm not used to running in the cold air," Dawson nodded.
The top three teams and the top 10 runners all advance to next Saturday'state meet, which will be held at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
Rhea County's Gloria Pascual and Soddy-Daisy's Chloe Nance were the individuals in the girls 3-AAA race while those top three teams included Cookeville, Cumberland County and Stone Memorial.
Cookeville, Cumberland County and Ooltewah were the top three teams among the guys in the 3-AAA race while individuals include Bradley's Collin Gwaltney and Smith, Soddy Daisy's Joe Kirk, Rhea's Bryson Bayles and Stone Memorial's Jordan Schroeder.
Signal Mountain won the 4-A/AA team competition with 28 points while Central Magnet was second with 69 and Macon County third with 84.
Individual qualifiers in that race included Cannon County's Hannah Whited and Chattanooga Christian's Sarah Hoffman, who was 10th in 21:15.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)